African Americans led youth voter turnout in 2010, white youth vote declined significantly…

Source: Current Population Survey (CPS) November Supplements, 1974-2010
(Chart created by CIRCLE)

Continuing a 12-year trend, voter turnout among people aged 18-29 is estimated to have been 24 percent, according to Census data analyzed by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and announced Friday. That was a drop of 1.5 percent from the midterm election of 2006. There was a four-year trend as well:

In 2010, as in 2008, young African Americans led the way in youth voter turnout. Young African Americans voted at a rate of 27.5% compared to 24.9% of young whites, 17.6% of young Latinos and 17.7% of young Asian Americans.  Turnout among white youth declined more than that of any other race/ethnicity between 2006 and 2010.

Despite the uptick in voting among African American youth, the overall situation remains pathetic. CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said: “Youth turnout has stayed between 22 percent and 25 percent in all midterm elections since 1998, compared to an average of 30 percent in the 1970s and 1980s. We have to find a way to raise it.”

Turnout in midterm elections is always less than in presidential election years, but the youth vote drops off more than it does for other age groups. In 2010, 40.4 percent of those aged 30-44 voted, as did 54.4 percent of those aged 45-64, and 60.8 percent of those aged 65 and older.

Whether the substantial drop in the rate of the youth vote from two decades ago reflects a simple lack of interest, cynicism about politics in general, a view that politicians don’t care enough about young people’s needs, a sense that neither the Democrats or Republicans are worth voting for or something else entirely is not known. A good guess would be that it’s a combination of factors.

Among other CIRCLE findings:

• The number of votes cast by young people increased by about half a million between 2006 and 2010.

• A “gender gap” in voting has shrunk as fewer young women have voted. In the presidential election of 2008 54.9 percent of young women voted but only 47.2 percent of young men did. In 2010, however, the difference was just over one percentage point.

• Young people with at least some college voted at twice the rate as those without.

• Young African American college students were more likely to vote than their white counterparts (29.6 percent versus 27.4 percent). Only 22.7 percent of Latino college students voted.

• Turnout varied markedly from state to state. Oregon boasted the highest youth turnout at 35.7 percent; in Nebraska, just 13.6 percent of young people voted.

You can see more details about the youth vote, including a state-by-state breakdown, here.


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